About Me

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No Fixed Abode, Home Counties, United Kingdom
I’m a 58-year-old Aspergic gardening CAD-Monkey. Sardonic, cynical and with the political leanings of a social reformer, I’m also a toy and model figure collector, particularly interested in the history of plastics and plastic toys. Other interests are history, current affairs, modern art, and architecture, gardening and natural history. I love plain chocolate, fireworks and trees but I don’t hug them, I do hug kittens. I hate ignorance, when it can be avoided, so I hate the 'educational' establishment and pity the millions they’ve failed with teaching-to-test and rote 'learning' and I hate the short-sighted stupidity of the entire ruling/industrial elite, with their planet destroying fascism and added “buy-one-get-one-free”. I also have no time for fools and little time for the false crap we're all supposed to pretend we haven't noticed, or the games we're supposed to play. I will 'bite the hand that feeds' to remind it why it feeds.

Sunday, March 24, 2013

W is for Weird Welsh Lady

No - Not Morgana le Fay! This is one of the oddest figures in my collection, being a solid lump of early polystyrene or one of the later - stable - cellulose acetates and made to look like a composition piece, thereby ignoring all the benefits of the plastics technology...lightweight moulding, transfer of detail etc...

She is around 50mm, but with the heavy base looks OK next to 54mm/1:32 scale figures and her five-colour paint scheme includes the pink cheeks so redolent of old style hollow-cast toy soldiers.

Clearly a tourist piece of the sort sold in all sorts of outlets throughout Wales, from coffee shops to castle gift shops and depicting a Welsh Girl in the traditional dress that sent an invading French Army running for their ships in 1797, after Jemima Nichols managed to round-up 15 invaders with a pitchfork!

As there is no real sign of a sprue (there are one or two paint chips, but the plastic looks smoothly finished underneath) I can only conclude that someone poured hot plastic into an old composition or plaster-figure mould, then used his/her bare thumb to swipe the excess from the open-end - see the marks on the base? Has anyone got an identical figure in plaster or a composition material in their collection?

Saturday, March 23, 2013

A is for Ahh!

Just a quick one this morning...Do you remember the foam promotional AFV's I got from Thales in Australia the other day? Well, look what turned up this week...

Obviously a Google search then presented itself as 'foam promotional car', which gave up the delightfully named Alibaba.com where there are foam models of heavy plant, agricultural tractors, railway carriages and far more besides little cars. I'm sure there are others, but that's enough on these for now!

Friday, March 22, 2013

N is for Natives Not Enjoying New Neighbours

So to the last batch of photographs from the last Marx Miniature Masterpiece session (The WWII and other historical sets will not be for a year or two now, they are deep in the storage unit!), looking at the Indians/Native Americans and the gun-tote'un Westerners who turned-up and ruined their world.
As with the Farm and ACW we will look at the crystal boxes first, as that's the reason they are all in the same box together, clearly the farmers were added to the range as 'workaday' cowboys, or non gun-slinging 'cowboy' types.

Larger 6 figure units above and smaller 4 figure sets below: Reading from the top left we have sets 11, 12, 13, 14, 15, and 16 with 13, 14, 16 and 18 of the little sets underneath them. As with the farm and ACW sets I have a few spares in the small boxed range and am looking for 15 and 17 in the same series.

A look at the 'fighting' poses of Indians, a mix of Marx's own down scales and some really quite sublime copies of the Britains Herald 'Swoppets', relatively well painted for their size and the age in which they were painted.

The lower shot shows the Rado/Ri-Toys recasts as supplied to Marksmen in the UK, they seem to have lost the Britains pose mould? These are in a quite tinny plastic that could be a modern hybrid ethylene or an older propylene?

A third element of the Indian range was the 'Camp Fire Group', again these are downscales of Marx figures and are among some of my more favourite figures from the whole collection. There are more variations in colour with this grouping, but you do get some variation with the fighting braves and a few are also shown here.

Also some variation in material colour with the Rado figures and an illustration of what happens when the release-pin get stuck at the wrong end of it's channel! They (Rado) never re-issued the camp-fire figures either.

The 'Cowboy' accessories are far more generic than the Indian ones so are consequently elsewhere with the WWII and Napoleonic accessories! However the Indian's accessories are in the Wild West box and can be seen here, these are all hard polystyrene.

In the centre are those poses I have loose, they are not the full set, but the cowboys do seem to have got themselves played to death! Around them clockwise from the top left are some paint variations, a set of the Ri/Marksmen poses, three of the later soft ethylene issue and finally some colour variations of the recent re-casts.

This is the soft plastic wagon sans tilt and is a recent purchase (the wagons seem to be 'missing' and must be in another box somewhere? A few horses, all hard plastic although soft plastic versions of the based ones were issued in the later sets - as seen below. I can't find the mounted cowboys either and apart from the one waggoner in a bag of otherwise broken bits and with all the ACW gun-teams absent (the one I shot was from the mint set) I'm guessing I split them at some point to make more room in the box?

A little set-up showing the view just prior to the Battle of Bent Tie River, when Corporal Custard 'got his' and a comparison between US and UK issued labels.

And - that's a 1 Gloster's other-ranks tie...j'a know what I mean guy? Wellington's 'Fire Brigade'...no messing, in'it doe!

As with a lot of the Miniature Masterpiece range, toward the end they came out in soft ethylene versions in these window-fronted sets (interestingly about the same size as the Triang set we looked at here: Marketing), all the accessories were in the softer polymer as well.

And you got all that for ¢69!

Thursday, March 21, 2013

C is for Charmingly Cheerfull Chaps Choon'ing

Although I had to pass-up the French terracotta figures I showed the other day, I will always obtain the more esoteric figures when I see them at an affordable price, and these are a case in point coming-in at 50p (less than a single Euro or Dollar) each from a charity shop the other day.

Despite Googling every possible combination of India-Indian-Pakistani-Pakistan-military-Army-Navy-Air Force-uniform-turban-headdress-ceremonial-red and blue-band-Bandsman and music-musician I can find no hint to the regiment or unit here represented, any ideas?

There is among the higher echelons of the collecting fraternity a chap who - a decade or so ago - imported lots of lovely little sets of Indian Army bands, each of about 8 musician figures in a soft pink terracotta/clay materiel and while he's been pointed out to me at the odd show, I'm ashamed to say I can't remember his name. Anyway, I was always taken by the sets - which often still turn up either as the original trayed, boxed sets, or as a handful of rather dusty 'casualties' - but they were smaller (around 45/50mm) than these, which stand 70-75-odd millimetres with their heavy bases.

There is a requirement for a new hand, and there will have to be some careful straightening of the brass-wire instruments at some point, but given the nature of the material and the fact that they've become divorced from their original packaging, they are in remarkably good-nick.

Close-ups of the instruments, quite crude, but they do the job, and have that 'craft' charm you don't get with say the Airfix Afrika Korps, which are lovely but commercially finished 'Models', while these are very much 'Collectable Figurines' (away from India), yet 'Toy Soldiers in the slums and villages where they are probably sold for about the same as I paid for them!

Lovely little doll-like faces only add to the charm, a couple of them seems to be reading the music of the chap next to them! And how they are seeming to be enjoying the playing!!

As the Indian Army do have some very fancy ceremonial or 'dress' uniforms, I am assuming this is the No.2 or 'undress' uniform with it's majority Khaki? Again anyone who can identify the unit please drop us a comment. I don't think it's a UN turban, they tend to be all blue. The small figures I mentioned come in very smart dress uniforms, but I'm not sure they were all military, or even representing actual units, yet these seem to be trying to represent a real unit...cavalry perhaps?

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

S is for Siblings - Take 2

Way back at the start of the blog I posted the little 'bubble-car' saloon of the 1950's type VW Beetle/Morris Minor shape here;

S is for Siblings

I then returned to them again here;

M is for Mysteries (which included a look at the probably Tudor*Rose version with thermo-printed star)

And recent purchases have caused me to return to them with a little more info and another variant...

Firstly a bog-standard set of three Kleeware versions from the Service Station play-set, the nice thing about them is that they are all in a 'pearlescent' plastic, giving a metallic effect. Also I noticed that all three were slightly different mouldings, most noticeable on the grill, where the vertical strengthener varies from partially to fully down the whole grill (yellow one) and the horizontal vents are different , but also windows vary and one of the tow-hooks is more pointed (yellow again).

Then this turned-up - An Ideal version, same size as the Pyro/Kleeware/Tudor*Rose and Lido ones and having similarities with both the other Pyro/Kleeware moulding (licence plate DP 7189) and the unknown (larger sized) one from the first post above with its more boat-tailed shape, but without the separate rear wheel-arch feature of those two, having instead a continuous body moulding line running the full length of the vehicle in a more rakish and 'futuristic' manner.

This one - like the Lido one, the Empire copy and the smaller, angular Mohawk effort - has no licence plate. It came as a load on the inset transporter, but didn't fit well, being a bit small, a different red and a better finish, so I suspect they don't actually go together, but if anyone knows the lorry's make I'd be grateful for an ID. It's poor finish leads one to suspect Hong Kong, but it's unmarked, which is unusual for a HK toy of this type, so it may be an American or European rack-toy/dime store thing?

Monday, March 18, 2013

H is for a Hover of Hong Kong Helicopters

I'm rather pleased with these pictures, nothing special, just a nice juxtaposition of 'cheepie' helicopters covering 60-odd years of both toy production and helicopter usage in combat.

On the left is a modern/current production pound-shop toy from the nineteen-nineties through to the noughties [awful bloody word], and showing in the inimitable style of Hong Kong/Chinese toy producers, the sort of command/control/utility helicopter flitting around in Iraq or Afghanistan.

The middle machine (with a bit of a mend on the rotor!) is the classic HK take on the UH1B 'Huey' or 'Slick' of Vietnam and the drug wars of the 1960's, 70's and 80's and was a typical rack-toy inclusion in carded sets of the late 1970's/80's. I have a couple of complete ones but they both have red plastic rotors and look a bit silly - even by HK standards!

While on the right in each picture is an early HK toy dating from the late 1950's to the early 70's and while also trying to depict a UH1, seems to carry some of the earlier 'chopper' styling of the Korean conflict or a dozen brush-fire/colonial-exit conflicts about it.

Each given a vaguely corresponding figure from Airfix as a scale reference.

Saturday, March 16, 2013

T is for Terracotta

I saw these on Mercator Trading's stall at Sandown Park the other month and just fell for them instantly, a bit outside my purchasing power but Adrian let me photograph them for the blog. I just love the more esoteric toy or model soldiers, and these are pretty off the wall or 'out there' compared to the usual plastics or lead figures.

A nice group of plaster, or soft white terracotta French Marines or a Naval landing/boarding party with wire rifle barrels, no idea as to the make, or how many poses there were originally? Made in an open-bottomed mould like slip-wear, it was a miracle they got out of the factory in one piece, let alone survived half a century or more of transport, storage and play.

In the same batch he had these other odds-and-sods, also French, but of more durable fired terracotta or clay. The inset top left has an undecipherable (by me!) makers mark which someone may be able to make more sense of, it might be better the other way up (but that didn't help me!).

To the right is what appears to be the number 74, probably a workers mark for QA purposes? Likewise the two red dots on the lower-left shot. Note also how the base material varies from a true terracotta pink through a clay-beige to an almost blue-grey colour

Friday, March 15, 2013

R is for Reichssportfeldstraße...

...where some very smart houses used to sit in greenified splendor. A strange juxtaposition being Eva Braun's house sitting next to the Brigade Padre's! Indeed a quirk not lost on the Padre who pointed it out to me.

Still, in 1936 I'm sure the wide boulevard street that runs from the Heer Straße  (the western end of the main arterial route through Berlin that becomes Unter den Linden and eventually runs under the Brandenburg Gate) up to the Olympic Stadium, with its broad pavements (side-walks) and expansive central median (now used for the typically 'Berlin' herring-bone parking) would have been lined with little kiosks selling tourist trinkets and memorabilia of the 1936 Olympic Games.

Others stands would have been selling 'Bratties mitt pommes-frits und mayo'...but that's another story!

Straight from the workshops of Bavaria or the Black Forest or anywhere else that had a tradition of wooden toy/plaything production now usually erroneously titled 'Erzgebirge' came this little charmer. An SA Oompa Band in full cry, approximately 25mm, with only the boots painted or stained black.

This was just the sort of little inexpensive item you could carry away on the day, send back to relatives elsewhere or abroad and which with the odd glueing over the years and the acquisition of a fine layer of nicotine has lasted to this day.

Saturday, March 9, 2013

S is for Spring!

Well, although it's getting colder by the minute this afternoon, and we've had two-and-a-half days of intermittent rain mist and drizzle, we did, back on Monday/Tuesday have the most glorious days of warm sunshine, bringing the Mirabelle plum out in a thick shock of ivory-cream blossom and getting the blood stirring in the wildlife...

This young Blackbird came right up to me as I weeded the rockery, looking for little bugs and things to breakfast on, bold as brass!

There were several Brimstones flying around but they didn't land long enough to catch on film, but this Tortoiseshell, was sunning itself for quite a while on the lawn and I got some nice shots.

It's funny - I think the brimstone is probably my favourite butterfly, or equal with the orange-tip, while the Tortoiseshell is usually only photograph-able at the end of the year when his/her wings look like the one that got away from  Manfred von Richthofen's flying-circus, all shattered and bitty! So there is a symmetry in not getting a shot of my favourite but getting the best shot ever of one I usually don't shoot!

Finally a moth that had the appearance of being fashioned from bits of sun-bleached bracken...as it emerged from a clump of er...sun-bleached bracken; there is the cleverness of nature in all her wonder summed-up in a little thing less than an inch across!

 This little mouse looks a bit damp as I had to rescue him from the mouth of Frodo, who was having a wail of a time not killing him for sport! I then had to engage in a great deception with Frodo, helping look all round the wheelbarrow for the 'escaped' mouse, so that he didn't blame me for loosing it.

As I was doing so, I saw the mouse had not gone far before stopping to groom cat-slobber off it's whiskers, so I then had to distract Frodo further, in the hope he wouldn't spot it. In the end the mouse disappeared down the back of the privet hedge, Frodo got to kill my bootlace and everyone was happy!

C is for Colecion not Comet

In the past I've thought these were Comet-Authenticast but I've now got enough Comet originals to know that A) they are multi-colour painted, and B) have separate figure sculpts for the Russians and Germans. These plain-painted US G.I.'s would however - seem to be from the original moulds as the Comet-Authenticast US Infantry and one has to assume that Birmania got the moulds as so many South American countries have ended-up with American toy soldier and European food premium moulds.

There is another of these kicking about the Internet, which has I think also appeared in a book somewhere, it shows a pink card with a red/yellow/orange rainbow boarder, but the contents are the same, and as contents go, very realistic.

A unit in combat will mostly be on their bellies (or kneeling behind something) not wandering and standing about the place as most war-game and toy soldier companies would have you believe from the contents of their boxes or catalogues! This set has a third of their number advancing under covering fire from the other two thirds - proper!

A close-up of the set, waiting at San Carlos for a good drubbing! It is unfortunate that so many of the prone figures are the same pose, but they are soft white-metal and could easily be adjusted at foot/ankle or knee/thigh to give a better representation of a group of guys behind low-cover.

The little gun is a bit fictional, I think Comet-Authenticast/Holgar Eriksson were/was aiming at a representation of the 37mm AT gun.

It's becoming pretty clear to me that Industria Argentina (listed in several books as a separate make) is in fact just the Spanio-Portuguese/South American for 'Made In Argentina', and not an entity in its own right at all? Given I've had over 150 hits from Argentina in the last 24 hours, it's a pity no one has thought to add that fact in the comments section of one of the Argentine posts for the benefit of all collectors who follow the blog...hay-ho - some people don't want to share!